The story of me- My Journey to a Balanced Life:
Something magical happens when you finally stop fighting against your destiny. We are each created with gifts and talents that are unique; ours alone. When we keep this gift from the world for which it was intended, we lose our way. So many of us are working for the things that don’t matter and ignoring the things that do. No wonder we feel out of balance and lost. A certain sense of clarity and peace falls over us when we finally find that place where we can use our talents to fulfill our passions! I remember when it happened for me.
After years of repeating the same financial mistakes, struggling with my weight and health, and feeling less than satisfied with my job, I finally had that epiphany that shifted everything. I had been reading every article/blog/post that I could get my hands on to try to figure it out; saving money , menu planning, decluttering, budgeting, frugal living, healthy meals, non-toxic cleaners, stockpiling, etc.
I joined the Dave Ramsey movement and started doing the baby steps and putting cash in assorted envelopes. I (my husband, actually) created an Excel spreadsheet that served as my household budget tool. I poured over Pinterest frugal meal ideas, coupons, and store sales. I started paying down debt and building savings. I finally (at the age of 47- yikes!) started putting money into my employer matched 401K. All of this was great and had created a whole new mind-set in me but I still felt I was spinning my wheels.
The Sins of the Past:
I’ll just say it. My husband and I had a bankruptcy in 2009. It was a difficult and shameful time for us. We earned good money but had absolutely NO discipline. We were both spenders. There was no one there to put the brakes on. Only two over-zealous shoppers who lived for the present and wanted to have as much fun as possible. Then it came crashing down around us. We were utterly consumed in debt in all forms: car loans, mortgage, 2nd mortgage, 3rd mortgage (for a wooded lot we had purchased and on which we planned to build a vacation home), credit card debt, student loans. We paid way too much out and there was not enough we coming in and we were drowning.
Out of desperation we filed for bankruptcy. Suddenly, we could breathe again. We kept our house and 1 car but everything else (except the student loans, of course) went away. For the first time in several years we had more money coming in than going out. So what did 2 fun-loving, spending fools do with that extra cash? 401K? Savings? Kid’s college fund? Pay off the student loans or mortgage? Of course not! Instead, we racked up just as much debt as before (only now we had horrible interest rates thanks to the bankruptcy and poor credit scores)! Yes, we had learned nothing!
As our financial struggle began (again), I started to lose balance in all areas of my life. My diet was not great and as I struggled with hypothyroid my weight shot up and I suffered other thyroid-related health issues as well. We started drinking wine nightly; after all, we couldn’t afford to go out so why not treat ourselves at home? My husband battled with a job he hated. We couldn’t afford to do fun things with our kids. We had purchased a travel trailer ($26,000) and a camping membership ($6,000) and a pickup truck ($25, 000) so we could camp with our children. Unfortunately, the payments cut so deeply into the budget we couldn’t scrape up the gas money it took (the truck only got 7 miles to the gallon when pulling the trailer) to travel to the campsites. Nor could my husband, who had no benefits, take unpaid time off of work if we were to be able to pay the bills. We were desperate. And then my husband lost his job and couldn’t find another. For NINE months!
After losing his job, my husband became (in my opinion) directionless. Don’t get me wrong, he did continue to apply for positions, but with no real current skills (he had been installing cable for the past 3 years), no college degree, and no concrete idea of what he wanted from life, he wasn’t getting many responses.
Bill had stood by me while I went back to school at 31 to become an RN and watched as I grew a very successful nursing career. Thankfully, I had recently made a brave leap to leave my long-time place of employment to take a chance on my dream job at another hospital (this was the most balanced part of my life due to the reduction in work stress). While I was making a good salary and I really enjoyed my new position, it was not enough to compensate for our exorbitant debt and loss of an income.
I knew we couldn’t go on like this. Bill had submerged himself into video games and had no motivation to help around the house or to aggressively seek new employment. He was unfulfilled, I was resentful, and I don’t think our marriage would have survived this arrangement for very long.
I realized it was his turn to shine. I told him I would handle things financially while he went to college. Just figure out what you want to do and go do it! He returned to school for Network Administration at the age of 46. How scary is that?! I was so proud of him but I had left myself with a huge burden. I wasn’t entirely sure how I could possibly make this work.
Using my Tools:
That’s when my journey to live a frugal life really became critical. It was born of desperation but I soon discovered desperation makes an excellent motivator! We were stuck with the revolving payments and couldn’t file for bankruptcy again so we had to get inventive about other places to cut costs. We thought we were living pretty lean. After all, we didn’t buy Starbucks, rarely went out to eat, and packed our lunches every day. What else could we possibly cut out? As it turns out there were a lot of places.
I had never been taught how to manage money as a kid, nor had my husband. We don’t blame our parents; I don’t think they knew any better either. They were living in a different time. They did the best they could with what they had. But now, ignorance could not be an excuse anymore. I had a huge responsibility on my shoulders to support my family while maintaining a successful career, being a good mother to my 3 sons, cooking healthy meals, and keeping my household functioning (or at least not collapsing).
Finding the Balance:
In my quest for survival I learned more than I thought possible. Things I wished I had been taught early in life. Things I wished I had known all along. I reflect on how different my adult life would have been had I only known this stuff sooner! That is where my real epiphany began. I’m a nurse. I’m a mother. I’m a wife. I am a breadwinner. My whole life in every aspect is devoted to caring for others. It’s what I’m good at and I love it. Unfortunately, someone was forgotten: me. I had ignored my needs, my health, my spirituality, my well-being. How can one possibly sustain caring for everyone around them without ever filling their own bucket? I was running on fumes.
I can only believe that God whispered in my ear and spoke to my soul because it suddenly became clear. I knew my calling would always include caring for others but I now knew a way to do that and nurture myself at the same time. I have always been a writer. I have a natural talent for it and I find words just pour out of me when I put pen to paper. In this talent lay the key.
The Birth of a Blog:
My journey has brought me to this place. I am ready to serve you while using my gifts and passions to nourish my own soul. This blog was born out of the need and the call to fulfill my Dharma and help you all to live a healthy, frugal, balanced life. This is my gift to the world as well as to myself.
Have I figured it all out? Do I have all the answers? Certainly not! If you were looking for superwoman you won’t find her here. What you will find is a person who has been knocked down more times than she cares to count, always finding the strength to rise to her feet. You will find honesty, humility, and useful tips and ideas that, if consistently implemented, can help you avoid some of the pain I had to go through. You can learn from my mistakes before you make them yourself. And what if your life is already a mess? Never fear, I’ll teach you how to get back up and get back on track. I think together we will discover amazing things and allow our lives to be rich and balanced. I hope you will join me on this journey!
And with that, I say my personal daily affirmation: